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Yesterday morning WGN-Channel 9 broke the news that an airplane had crashed onto Martin Luther King Drive on the South Side, breaking off a wing that had skidded down the road and hit a car.
But three minutes later, the station reported back that the crash was actually a scene being shot for the TV series "Chicago Fire."
"We are just getting word that this is being shot as part of a TV show," anchor Larry Potash told viewers.
"Are you kidding me?" said anchor Robin Baumgarten. "They might want to tell the news folks that they're doing this and shutting down King Drive. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? 29th and King Drive, it's OK. It's all for a TV show, even though you see that plane in the road."
"Our previous experience with movies and TV shows filming in Chicago is that they inform the community that something is happening," he added. "Since we had no such advisory, our news team began to describe the scene they could see from our helicopter shot. Other major stations in Chicago were on network news at that time."
Police and fire officials report that other television stations also called them about what looked like a major story unfolding at King and 29th Street, though Channel 9 apparently was the only one to go with the story shortly after 8 a.m.
The helicopter arrived on the scene a few minutes before 8 a.m.
The Fire Department tweeted this alert after Channel 9 aired the story: "Chicago TV News is reporting a plane down at. . .King Drive this is a filming for the NBC show Chicago Fire and is a simulation disregard"
Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, said information about the staged plane accident was not widely distributed. "It looks like it didn't get filtered down to everybody." Even some patrol officers could be heard on scanners this morning asking their supervisors about a plane crash.
Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, said his office only puts out media alerts for large-scale productions, like the filming of "Transformers 3" on the Michigan Avenue bridge and Wacker Drive.
"To be honest, 'Chicago Fire' is out on the street filming nearly every day and we didn’t see this any differently than the standard filming," he said. "The local community was notified so there weren’t any surprises there. We notify residents by knocking on doors, leaflets, talking to people directly in the community who live within the close proximity to the filming area.”
Langford said steps will be taken to improve communications. "In the future, I'm asking my people to let me know so I can let the media know. News desks need to know," Langford said. "I'm sure from the helicopter it looked like it was real."
The station had been alerted by dozens of callers and quickly swung its helicopter over the scene as it made repeated calls to fire officials. Potash and Baumgarten reported what they could see from the helicopter's skycam, at one point noting the lack of ambulances and urgency.